Mushrooms make for a very tasty addition to dinner plates where flavor may be lacking. There are many different varieties to choose from when you are trying to decide on a certain mushroom. When people think about the word "mushroom", the usual flat white button top mushroom is usually the type that comes to mind. But as many chefs and food cultivators will tell you - there is so much more to the family of mushrooms. All mushrooms are very fleshy so be careful when adding them for flavor - the dish can turn quite overwhelming with too many mushrooms.
Agaricus Mushroom (White/Button Mushroom)
As mentioned before, this is probably the most well known mushroom of all. Its round, white button top makes for a very fleshy and tasteful addition to many plates all over the world. It is widely cultivated and is sold in almost every grocery store. The size of the Agaricus ranges from small to large, in which the large Agaricus are most commonly used for stuffers. Stuffed mushrooms are a popular appetizer in many different locations. This specific type of mushroom is available canned and dried, and is easy to prepare whether cooked or raw.
Another popular staple of the mushroom family is the Crimini. This mushroom is found commonly in salads and on steaks for flavor. The color ranges from tan to a darker brown and is commonly sold in larger groups since the Crimini itself is quite small. The Crimini has a very fleshy texture and is bolder in taste than other mushrooms such as the Agaricus. The Crimini is used to substitute the Agaricus mushroom when more flavor is desired.
The Shiitake mushroom is a very famous mushroom that is widely used in oriental cooking. Shiitake itself is much meatier than other mushrooms and can almost be used as a meat substitute in some recipes. Baking and sautéing are the best ways to prepare this mushroom. You should always make sure to remove the stems from Shiitake mushrooms before baking. You will find Shiitake in many restaurants that serve fried rice and egg rolls.
This mushroom is one that tastes almost exactly like its namesake. The oyster mushroom has a very distinct seafood/oyster like taste - as well as smell - to it. The oyster mushroom acquired its name from being shaped like an actual oyster. It features a fluted cap that is made to resemble folds of an oyster. The oyster mushroom can be eaten raw with no problems. Sometimes it is recommended to eat the mushroom raw as it can help to make the flavor really pop.
The Enoki mushroom is one of the more interesting looking mushrooms available to be grown. It features very long stems and multiple tiny caps. Enoki is a much lighter flavored mushroom that can taste almost fruity at times. One word of advice: if you plan on adding in this particular type of mushroom whilst cooking, do so at the last possible minute since heat will make the Enoki much tougher than desired.
The Matsutake Mushroom The matsutake is a very flavorful and hard to find mushroom primarily found in Asia but also other places. It is one of the more rare species and can come at a pretty high price tag..
Portabello or Portabella Mushroom
The portabello mushroom is one of the most popular and is very prevalent in all sorts of food dishes. It is essentially a mature crimini. This is one of the most textured and fleshy mushrooms you will find on the market today. It features a deep meat-like taste and are good virtually any way you can try to prepare them. One tip - always cut off the stems. They are tough and fibrous; they really won't add anything to the plate.
Porcini is a very expensive type of mushroom that can be home grown, but can be difficult to grow perfectly. The porcini is also pretty large in size - they can weigh in at a whole pound each. They are available dried, but as a warning they can have a pretty strong smell. Porcini has a nuttier flavor, so it should be chosen carefully when being added to certain dishes. Porcini is a very popular mushroom in Italy and can reach up to one foot in height.
This mushroom has a very unique look to it and an even more unique taste. The black trumpet mushroom is a favorite to many lovers of smoky and rich flavored mushrooms. The black trumpet mushrooms have been called the "little black holes" of wildlife, since their appearance is tubular and dark. Many soups and pasta dishes will favor the black trumpets smoky and distinguished flavor. Dried black trumpets are a very popular snack in many different parts of the world.
This mushroom in particular is great as a medicinal mushroom but can also be quite tasty! They have a very strong flavor that can be used as a stand-alone in certain food dishes. The Maitake is medicinally used for conditions like high blood pressure, cholesterol and even diabetes. It is said that Maitake mushroom can help to stabilize blood glucose levels.
Here is a very fun mushroom that can be used in many different types of food. The giant puffball actually has a great talent of acting like tofu in dishes and being able to absorb the flavors of the food surrounding them. Along with that, they provide their own earthy taste which makes for a very interesting and tasteful dish. Frying the giant puffball mushrooms are one very popular way to feast on them. Placing them in a batter and then frying them for a short amount of time can really bring out some marvelous flavors. Giant puffballs also do well sautéed into vegetable dishes and used as an eggplant substitute.
Chicken of the Woods Mushroom
One of the sillier named mushrooms, chicken of the woods has a reason for its namesake - it is one mushroom that tastes almost exactly like chicken! Depending on your tastes, the chicken of the woods mushroom is utilized in a lot of vegetarian recipes to substitute using actual meat. The younger your chicken of the woods mushrooms are, the better they will taste.
Here is a hint for those of you whose stomachs do not bode well with mushrooms - don't use too much cooking oil. Mushrooms in general absorb oil extremely well and when too much is used they can feel huge and irritate your stomach after being eaten.